Targeted therapy for HER2 can minimize impact on healthy cells

Human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) is a protein involved in cancer cell growth and survival with particular relevance to breast and stomach cancers. People who have overly “expressed” levels of HER2 may be candidates for targeted therapy, meaning pharmaceutical therapy that specifically targets the HER2 protein. In general, targeted therapy is less damaging to nearby healthy cells and may be less harmful to the patient.

Some drawbacks associated with HER2 targeted therapy

While the hope for targeted therapies is to minimize the impact of cancer treatment on healthy cells, there are some drawbacks to targeted treatments. The primary limitation is that HER2 targeted therapy can only be used on someone who has elevated levels of HER2 protein. Just because a person has breast cancer, for example, does not mean she will have overexpression of HER2. Therefore, targeted therapy for HER2 is only appropriate for people who have cancer with that particular marker.

Also, cancer cells may become resistant to targeted therapy. The cancer cells may mutate in new ways that evade the targeted treatment. For this reason, targeted therapy for HER2 is usually combined with chemotherapy, which has accompanying side effects. In general, however, targeted therapy combined with traditional therapy produces optimal results.

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